What is Alternative Vote?

By Joe Young - Politics Editor

Image: Pulse Media

So following on from our introduction of First Past The Post, Pulse Politics are taking it up a notch, and introducing numbers to a ballot paper. How, you ask? Instant run-off voting, or as some may know it, Alternative Vote.

In 2011, the United Kingdom held a referendum on Alternative Vote, with the “No” side winning with just over two-thirds of the ballots cast.

Image: Wikipedia
Image: Wikipedia

Although numbers make a ballot paper look complicated, it can be summed up in four steps:

  1. Count the ‘first preference’ votes – those ranked with 1
  2. Are over 50% of the votes cast for one candidate? If yes, that candidate wins
  3. If no, add on the ‘second preferences’ – those ranked with 2
  4. If a candidate now has over 50%, then they win. Otherwise, keep going until either a candidate has a majority of the vote, or there are no more preferences to add – the winner in this case is whoever has the most votes

See? That’s not so difficult!

AV is used in various elections across the UK – Labour and the Liberal Democrats both elect their leader via AV, and by-elections to the House of Lords are held via AV.

Some say it’s a good system because it requires every MP to have majority support of their constituents, because it doesn’t erode the constituency-MP link (meaning the idea that every single person is represented by a specific Member of Parliament), and because it reduces the effects of safe seats, meaning politicians have to work harder.

However, others say it’s a bad system because it can throw up “lowest common denominator” candidates who are the second or third choice of many but with little first choice support, because in “three horse races”, i.e. constituencies with three potential winners, the compromise candidate may be eliminated in the first round, despite the possiblity of being more broadly acceptable than the other two candidates, and because of donkey voting – voters ranking people in the order they appear on a ballot paper.


What do you think of Alternative Vote? Would you have voted Yes or No to AV? Leave a comment below or let us know @PulseMediaUCLan

About Joe Young 316 Articles
Joe Young has been involved with student media for a very long time now, holding posts within The Pulse, and Pulse Radio, as well as the predecessor of The Pulse, Pluto. He is currently Politics Editor of The Pulse, and Head of News of Pulse Radio. In 2016, he won the Media Award for Best Article for his coverage of the Fishergate Shopping Centre bomb scare.

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